Jimmy Carter, Rosalynn Land in North Korea to Bring US Prisoner Home
August 25, 2010
(ChattahBox)—Kim Jong-il, the ailing communist leader of North Korea, won’t be happy until he has lured all former U.S. presidents to his isolated starving nation. First, former President Bill Clinton arrived in Pyongyang last year to much fanfare, to secure the release of two American journalists imprisoned for allegedly straying into North Korea, while on assignment in China. Now, former President Jimmy Carter has arrived in North Korea to obtain the release of a U.S. English teacher, sentenced to 8-years of hard labor for entering the country. The only living presidents left to make future “private humanitarian” missions for the sake of Kim Jong-il’s cult of personalty, are George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush. After those two, we then will be forced to send Elvis impersonators.
News reports indicate that North Korea agreed beforehand to pardon Aijalon Mahli Gomes, 31, a Boston native, working as an English teacher in Seoul, before he crossed the border on January 25th and was taken into custody, providing Jimmy Carter appeared in person for his release.
Carter traveled to Pyongyang on a private jet with his wife Rosalynn, according to The New York Times:
“Mr. Carter was greeted at Pyongyang airport by Kim Kye-gwan, a senior North Korean diplomat, according to the North’s official news agency, KCNA. Mr. Kim is North Korea’s main envoy to the six-nation talks on ending its nuclear weapons program. The talks have been stalled for more than two years.” [...]
“Officially, Washington described his trip as a private humanitarian mission to secure the release of Aijalon Mahli Gomes, an American from Boston who was sentenced in April to eight years of hard labor and fined $700,000 for illegally entering the North. But Mr. Carter’s trip loomed large because of his track record of helping defuse the first Korean nuclear crisis more than 16 years ago.”
Details on Gomes’ motivation for entering North Korea from China are sketchy, but it’s thought he planned to use his arrest to expose the horrid conditions of the country’s prison camps.
“Mr. Gomes, 30, is believed to have entered North Korea to show support for Robert Park, a fellow Christian from the United States who crossed into North Korea from China last December to call attention to the dismal conditions at the North’s prison camps. Mr. Park was expelled from North Korea after about 40 days.”
PJ Crowley, the U.S. state department spokesman, is not commenting on the details of Carter’s trip. “We will continue to withhold comment,” he said.
“We do not want to jeopardize the prospects for Mr Gomes to be returned home by discussing any details related to private humanitarian efforts to get him released and back here safely to the US,” added Crowley.
Carter is expected to spend the night in North Korea’s capital, before returning home with Gomes.
Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons/Jud McCranie/Jimmy Carter on bicycle, Plains, Georgia, President’s Day 2008.